haiti: three years later and breaking ground

It’s hard to believe that it was just three years ago that Kembe, Karis and I were in Haiti the day the earth shook. And today, I have great news to share: the school that was funded out of my trip with Help One Now BROKE GROUND TODAY. 429136_4742637157485_268362683_n It seems so fitting that this momentous day takes place on the anniversary of the earthquake. Thank you to all of you who donated. I’m so excited about this project and about the impact it will have for the children in this village. 603043_4742639157535_1190286563_n Phases-H1N-Cover

let’s build a school in haiti for Christmas

LP-H1N-TopImage Remember when I went to Haiti last month with Help One Now? It was such an amazing trip with a great group of people – a group of movers and shakers and dreamers. The trip was full of passionate talk about social justice and how we were going to change the world. And yes, the reality is that the dozen of us on that trip probably won’t change the whole entire world. But we found our “field” to work, so to speak. We had an amazing experience but all of us felt this nagging to do a bit more than advocacy – to leave some kind of “legacy” from our journey there. We talked quite a bit about what that would look like, and one day it became abundantly clear. We were visiting an orphanage in a remote village that house 30 orphans. In addition to these kids, the pastor over the orphanage also ran a school for 120 of the vulnerable kids in the local village. There was land next to the orphanage where a foundation had been built for a school building, but the students were meeting in tents. My friend Jen explains their situation so well:

Another tent in a nation of temporary solutions. It is open, exposed to every gust of wind, every sheet of rain, every swirl of dust, every decibel of Haitian noise. The children outgrew the space ages ago. A few desks, one chalkboard, a thin partition of canvas between grades…I am awed by their resourcefulness. No shelves, no books, no other learning materials. Where would they put them? As is, it is simply a rudimentary roof over their heads where they are receiving the basic building blocks of a future.

After our visit, the seeds of an idea began to blossom, and we unanomously decided: WE WANTED TO FUND THIS SCHOOL BUILDING.  The space is there. The foundation is there. The kids and teachers are there. They money is not. Please take a minute to watch this video that explains our project.: We will be using Pure Charity to help fund the project. (If you aren’t familiar with Pure Charity, check out the video in this post.)  The total cost of the school will be about $90,000 dollars, and we’re daring to believe we can raise that by Christmas. Would you be willing to be a part of this?
Here’s how.

  1. If you haven’t already, sign up for Pure Charity. “Follow” me through that link, and that is your ticket in the door. Then create your own account. (Missed that part? Read Jen’s post about it.)
  2. Go to the Legacy site here, or use the handy widget below.
  3. Click on the “Back this Project” button.
  4. Donate to this projecthttps://www.purecharity.com/legacyphase2?aff=cwqqq. We’re doing it in phases, starting with a brick for $35 bucks. The first phase ($3000) was funded yesterday! So we’re already on phase 2.
  5. Continue to funnel your regular spending through Pure Charity partners online and in-stores, and your personal giving account will continue to grow. You can then use those rewards (earned through passive shopping) to donate more!
  6. Put the school on your Christmas list. Consider making a donation in someone’s name as their Christmas gift, or even making the gift of a brick something your family buys together.

  Buying a school in Haiti this Christmas – I can’t think of a better gift to give. 150 students will have a place go to go school, with new students able to join every year. 12 teachers will have a steady income. At least 30 jobs will be created for Haitians in the construction. Building materials bought locally will boost the economy. Kids will get an education to help lift them out of extreme poverty. It’s exactly the kind of help that can effect long-term results for this community.  I hope you will join us!

kembe’s first visit to haiti

We’ve had an amazing time on our family cruise this week – I’ve got lots of stories to recount once we are home and unpacked. But I wanted to share about our day in Haiti.  This was Kembe’s first visit back since he came home shortly after the earthquake, and our first trip as a complete family. It was surreal to return via a cruise ship since last week I visited with a Help One Now and saw some of the most impoverished conditions in Haiti.  The little stretch of beach that Royal Caribbean visits is hardly representational of the entire country . . . but at the same time, Labadee embodies the beauty and hospitality of Haitian culture (in a safe, touristy way).  I think that this made it the perfect way to introduce Kembe to his culture, which he has not been keen to embrace in the past few years. My goal for this trip was for him to have a positive experience in Haiti, and we succeeded on that front.  In the future, we can work on more cultural accuracy. Photo Oct 23, 10 31 53 AM The beaches in Labadee (and in most of Haiti) are quite beautiful. The water is crystal-clear and the sand is soft . . . we had a great time just chilling by the water. Photo Oct 23, 2 03 31 PM Photo Oct 23, 2 21 04 PM   Photo Oct 23, 2 11 25 PM I had a couple people make some critical comments about us going to Haiti on a cruise ship.  One person asked what the benefit was.  As I mentioned, the one benefit was giving Kembe a positive experience. But I also believe that tourism could be a hugely beneficial industry for Haiti. It was in the 80’s, until political unrest scared visitors off.  But I don’t think people should be dissuaded from visiting Haiti for leisure just because it’s typically thought of as a place of need.  In fact, that’s all the more reason to go spend your money there.  Haiti tourism, FTW! Photo Oct 23, 12 55 26 PM That’s not to say there weren’t moments of cognitive dissonance.  The cruise ship served lunch on the island – a huge buffet with a ridiculous amount of food. It was hard to see this knowing that there were people just over the fence who were in need. Photo Oct 23, 1 03 23 PM How do I know there were people just over the fence who were in need?  Because they were yelling at me while I took this photo.  They were yelling, and miming “bring me food”.  Not at all awkward. Photo Oct 23, 1 15 21 PM Jafta noticed these going-oins and asked if we could take them some. While I’m sure this broke the rules, Mark made them a big plate and snuck it back to them through a whole in the fence. I’m not even sure that was the right thing to do, but it made the boys feel good. Photo Oct 23, 1 34 23 PM After lunch we gave the kids some spending money for the marketplace, and a quick lesson in bartering. Despite me wanting them to buy traditional Haitian artifacts, the girls insisted on using their money to buy crappy plastic fans that were probably made in China. They were originally priced at $10 each, but my girls scored them for $3.  Such a bargain, and such a meaningful souvenir. Photo Oct 23, 1 52 12 PM After shopping, we headed over to a little water park. You know, just a typical Haitian water park. There is one on every corner in Port-Au-Prince. Photo Oct 23, 2 34 45 PMPhoto Oct 23, 2 42 30 PM Photo Oct 23, 2 43 35 PM Jafta scoured the beach for a coconut and finally found one that had fallen from a tree. He was determined to get that thing open and eat the contents. I swear, this kid should start a survival show where he just forages and eats weird plants and animals. I tried to tell him that the coconut wasn’t ripe yet, but he would not be deterred. He opened it after quite a bit of effort, and declared it delicious. (It was not). Photo Oct 23, 2 49 31 PM There were several installments of traditional Haitians dancers, joined by traditional aging drunk sorority girls. Photo Oct 23, 2 59 21 PM Photo Oct 23, 3 05 11 PM Oh look! Another traditional Haitian water park!   Photo Oct 23, 11 20 45 AM Kembe had a blast in Haiti. He also got a lot of attention. Every where we went, locals asked me if he was Haitian.  It’s so funny how they could tell. NO ONE asked about Jafta.  Kembe was getting hi fives and “my brotha!” waves from every merchant. As silly as that was, I think he relished the attention and was walking a little taller by the end of the day.  Over the next few days I heard him tell other kids that he is from Haiti – something he previously was reluctant to share. Photo Oct 23, 10 43 06 AM Photo Oct 23, 3 15 09 PM The one purchase I was excited about (beyond the plastic fans, of course) was an old Haitian license plate. We’re planning to hang this in Kembe’s new room.  After we bough it, someone told us it was illegal for them to sell it to us.  Whoops! The Howerton family: food smuggling, license-plate-buying international outlaws. *A huge thanks to Fisher Price for inviting us on this cruise to experience their onboard partnership with Royal Caribbean!

laughing to keep from crying

This has been an emotionally exhausting trip, and at times the heaviness has been overwhelming. It’s been nice to be on such a big team because they’ve provided quite the comic relief in the midst of some of the difficult things we’ve been seeing. I’ve always used sarcasm as a coping skill, and luckily for me this is a team full of like-minded people on that matter. There has been plenty of humor and laughter to bring some levity (and sanity) to the trip.  And in the spirit of comic relief, I thought I would share some of the less-weighty-but-still-memorable parts of the trip.

Favorite Quotes:

“There was an earthquake on my honeymoon night” -Mary DeMuth “When it comes to the ethics of zombie nudity, there are a lot of things to consider.” – Sarah Bessey “I came up with this ideal.” – Chris Marlow “This is a true game-changer for me, this salt on chocolate thing.  My life has changed.” – Jennifer Hatmaker “Is this just like when a bunch of people are on LSD and think everything they say is profound, or are we really solving the world’s problems here? Because I feel like we are.” – Kristen Howerton “Why don’t you shave?” – Every Haitian ever to Scott Wade “You need to beer me.” – Deidra Riggs  

Favorite Moments:

Long, bumpy bus rides that should have been painful and annoying that ended up being fun because of the company. Talking at length with passionate women about big subjects like politics, faith, and social justice, and feeling like collectively, we could make a difference. Watching kids read letters from their sponsors with wide eyes Seeing the Livesays and John and Beth McHoul again. Connecting on a soul-level with my teammates. Several grown, married women shamelessly requesting a photo with our hottie young translators. DON’T JUDGE ME. translators Drinking ice-cold Prestige in the van, despite not liking beer. Staying up until 2am talking with Jen Hatmaker, knowing we had to wake up in 3 hours but having too much fun gabbing to sleep. A hot shower. A warm meal. Having a five-year-old orphan teach me how to Dougie. Sharing my story of surviving the earthquake in front of a church full of people in Tent City, and feeling the swell of emotion as we recalled the feelings of that day. Watching elderly women dance from their seats during a worship set in Tent City, then raise their hands as they sang How Great Thou Art in Creole. Riding through a muddy road-turned-river on the back of a pickup truck. Meeting incredible Haitian leaders who are living out social justice every single day. Having a child without a sponsor decide to write and hand- deliver her sweet letter to me. Getting excited about a project that can have a lasting impact (more on that to come!)

Favorite Photos:

bloomhaiti_036IMG_5813 haiti_005haitiscott-3haitiscott-8 bloomhaiti_022bloomhaiti_034bloomhaiti_040bloomhaiti_046day2_scottwade-8day2_scottwade-9day2_scottwade-10day2_scottwade-57day2_scottwade-60day2_scottwade-68day2_scottwade-83day2_scottwade-92day2_scottwade-106

Favorite Posts:

In Which God Doesn’t Look the Same Anymore by Sarah Bessey

I felt angry at the main tent city. Angry with God, angry with the world, angry with my own self, how is this place even possible in our world, in 2012? I could not bear the smell, the sights, the truth of this place, and I saw babies the age of my tinies there, naked, hollering HEY YOU snapping sass, and all of my carefully reasoned understandings about how everyone has a different calling and some of us are just called to different things than poverty relief and caring for orphans stank rank like heresy.

When People Feel Familiar by Jennie Allen

And maybe in our wildest dreams- we won’t feel so disconnected. We’ll feel like grabbing hands with women that feel familiar to dream and build and grow. That’s why we want to tell stories…. so this goes from helping people to loving people. And this goes from us looking down to trying to keep up with our noble brave friends. When people feel familiar… there are no longer excuses as to why we won’t help. We just help because we love them. We help because they are our friends.

4 Myths About Haiti by Mary DeMuth

Myth One: Haitians are lazy and are only looking for handouts. Au Contraire: Everywhere I went, I saw people working, walking to or from work, selling wares, gardening, building, cooking, doing. When we had to take some team members to the airport at 5 (gasp) 45 in the morning, it took us well over two hours. This should take 15 minutes. Why? Traffic. People were heading to work. Truth: I NEVER saw a beggar in Haiti. The closest I came was a man at the airport wanting to sell me paintings. But even then, he’d painted them. He worked.

Mopping Haiti by Jen Hatmaker

As we walked through Tent City today, 971 days after the earthquake, it stretched as far as the eye could see. Climbing through the steep pathways full of sewage, I kept thinking: “How could I take care of my family here for even one day? Even one day?” The conditions are deplorable; you can’t imagine it. The tales of children lost to trafficking and innocence lost to violence and dignity lost to despair here froze the blood in my veins.

My View From Haiti: Keep Coming Back by Deidra Riggs

When he talks about this ministry at the orphanage, Pastor Gaeton says he has spoken with individuals and organizations who seemed to catch his vision, and said they would help. But they didn’t. They didn’t show up. They didn’t come back. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this since I’ve been in Haiti. And I haven’t been here very long

And then we danced by Duane Scott

I’m dripping sweat but they don’t care. Stepping through the gate and into those arms is more than I can process so I just let them tug and hug and love me and the palm tree is casting shaggy shadows over this slice of heaven. After the chaos dies down and the children are calmed by the pastor running the orphanage, there’s just one little girl clinging to my hand. She wraps her arms around me, then looks up, big glassy eyes meeting mine and then she sighs big and burrows her face in my stomach. So I just hold her.

If you are interested in partnering with Help One Now with microfinance loans, you can make a one-time donation here. You can sponsor a child in tent city here. If you’re strapped for cash but still want to help, consider hosting a garage sale for orphans alongside some friends or your church. Photos courtesy of the talented Molly Donovan Burpo and Scott Wade. You can follow our Twitter and Instagram feeds at #Help1Haiti

the lack of a family is the greatest form of poverty

Today was our third day in Haiti.  Over the past few days I’ve been feeling emotionally neutral . . . and even a little upbeat.  It has surprised me, because I expected this trip to stir up a lot of negative feelings. We’ve seen some hard things, including people living in extreme poverty, but each individual story we’ve heard has been infused with hope for the future. I’ve even had some self-doubt because I have felt so stoic on this trip. I drove by the house where I was staying during the earthquake, and felt fine. I visited the house where I first met Kembe, and I felt nostalgic but there wasn’t a rush of emotion. IMG_5786 (reunited with Tara and Beth at the former children’s home that now serves as a maternity center) That all changed today when we visited the orphanage that Help One Haiti is funding via sponsorships.  The orphanage houses 32 kids, and as soon as we exited the truck we were surrounded by searching limbs, grabbing our hands and wrapping their arms around our waists. Before I understood attachment issues, I would have been delighted to be in a situation where I could lavish affection on orphans I had just met. Now that I understand it better (and have kids of my own), I realize that this kind of affection-seeking-from-strangers behavior is a sign of a lack of attachment to parental figures.  Today, it broke my heart as these children burrowed their heads into my tummy and encircled me in their arms, embracing me like they were hungry for love. day2_scottwade-109 A child without a family is the greatest form of poverty. #help1haiti (photo by Scott Wade) I was struggling to keep it together when I overheard one of the girls who was holding me tight say to a friend in Creole, “This is my mommy.”  Then a little boy indicated to me and to another man on the trip, and in Creole said, “This is my mommy and this is my daddy.”  Oh my heart. These kids are just craving a mom and a dad . . . so much so that they are assigning strangers this role.  Their behavior was so different than the community schoolchildren we played with the day prior – who just wanted to have their picture taken and play soccer. The kids today wanted to be touched. Some of them looked like the were practically teenagers and they wanted to be held. bloomhaiti_018 day2_scottwade-24day2_scottwade-25 I was fighting back tears as we interacted with the kids, feeling so angry that there are so many children in this world who navigate life without family, and who will deal with the emotional and social fallout of that situation for the rest of their lives.  There is no poverty so great as a child without a family. There was a point at which I felt like I just went a little numb – like I needed to detach from the situation and go to some happy place in my mind where all kids have families and life’s greatest struggle is packing school lunches or choosing their outfits. But instead, I decided to throw myself into a task.  Being productive is my coping mechanism. There were letters from sponsors that need to be delivered to the kids.  The kids needed to write their sponsors back.  I jumped into action to help facilitate this.  It alleviated some of my anxiety and gave me something to do and kept me from going into full-blown despair mode. IMG_5830 IMG_5831 It was precious seeing the kids receive letters from their sponsors, and it alleviated my anxiety for a brief moment.  I think this is how many of us cope with extreme poverty or injustice: we spring into action.  We find actionable steps that make us feel like we are doing something, and we hopefully help in a way that actually helps to solve the problem. Help One Now is doing that in Haiti right now, too.  Maybe as you are reading this, you want to close the post and bury your head in the sand in regards to the painful existence that orphans in Haiti are facing every day.  Or maybe, like me this afternoon, it’s time for you to dig in and do somethingA child without a family is the greatest form of poverty. #help1haiti (photo by Scott Wade) IMG_5828 If you are interested in partnering with Help One Now with microfinance loans, you can make a one-time donation here. You can sponsor a child in tent city here. If you’re strapped for cash but still want to help, consider hosting a garage sale for orphans alongside some friends or your church. Photos courtesy of the talented Molly Donovan Burpo and Scott Wade. You can follow our Twitter and Instagram feeds at #Help1Haiti